Harnessing Gen Y

For business, the future lies with Generation Y. Born between 1982 and 1995, it is a group roughly the same size as the boomers.

This group is the foundation of the next three decades of employment. They are the ones affected by the events of September 11 and the global financial crisis the most. They have survived debt, student loans and no jobs. They are tech savvy, diverse, connected, and are activists for personal rights such as gay marriage and the environment. While some consider them narcissistic and entitled, the reality is that Gen Y individuals want to make a difference to the world. They want to have a positive impact and help build businesses.

Printers need to employ special recruitment and retention strategies for Gen Y. To recruit them, printers have to think smart. If Gen Y is spending so many hours a month on Facebook, the company will need its own Facebook page. They should also be authentic and humanise their brand and allow candidates to get a glimpse of the hearts and minds of the organisation’s leaders.

To keep them printing companies need to be consultative and have flexible work conditions. Processes should not be unnecessarily prescriptive. And dress codes should not be overly stringent if their roles are not client-facing. CEOs should know how to receive feedback as well as give it, and they should act quickly on it. And finally, work that is boring needs to be spiced up.

Here is an interesting observation: money is rarely enough to keep them on board. What companies need to do instead is make their expectations very clear, which would give Gen Y employees a sense of accomplishment. For Gen Y, accomplishments are the stepping stones to success, and without that sense of momentum, they would feel they are just spinning the wheels. More than any other generation, they feel a need to be developed and coached. They want to feel they are learning something. That means the print company has to actually be competent in coaching techniques. It  is also important to stretch their comfort zones.

Gen Y workers welcome new challenges and a manageable degree of risk. This is an adrenaline-driven generation that craves change and challenge, and members will not shrink from assignments outside their comfort zones. They see an opportunity to take on a new challenge as a vote of confidence in their abilities. And Gen Y employees seem to thrive in teams. Team loyalty is a key tool for motivating and retaining Gen Y members. They identify strongly with their team, often more strongly than they identify with their company. The team is a source of social and professional support and gives them a base from which they can move forward. You need to enhance their collective culture, their sense of team, and their feeling of cohesion and social integration.

And finally, it is important to remember that Gen Y values growth and mobility. Printers have to keep them up to date about growth opportunities at the company, and work with them to understand their interests and set a timeline for greater responsibility.

Printers should also remember that Gen Y individuals do not expect or even desire lifetime employment at any one place. They do value knowing that as they move ahead, the company will be there for them. The more they feel that the business is a true partner in their career, the more they will value the company.

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